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on November 22, 2003
Until it was finally in my hands, I wondered why this book had not received much reviewer attention, given its solid content and authorship. Keys to understanding that at once became obvious:
1) The book is much more expensive than books with similar content.
2) The eloquent Jared Spool, listed as an author, provided only a short preface.
3) The book was designed as a college textbook. Who loves or hates a textbook enough to bother to review it?
As a classroom aid, the book is superb. Usability principles are presented from foundations to applications clearly and without padding. Unlike many usability texts, statements are backed with ample references. The color illustrations lighten the book sufficiently to soften any textbooky stigma.
Each chapter ended with review questions and exercises. Some of them were very interesting and creative, but if you are not in a classroom with an instructor who has access to the password-protected answers, you are on your own.
So the Web professional attracted to the material and learning on his own will inevitably feel a bit cheated out of the full value of the book.
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on October 2, 2003
I had to design a website for the department in which I work, at short notice and with limited familiarity with internet technology and NO background in graphics or design. "User-Centered Website Development" came to the rescue. McCracken and Wolfe are not interested in flashy gimmicks; they concentrate on designing sites that the site visitors will find easy, pleasant, and efficient to use. Chapter 3, "Know Thy User," helped me figure out what the audience's top priorities were; Chapters 4 and 6, "Organization" and "Site Navigation," helped me organize the pages; Chapters 5, 9, and 10 taught me some basic design principles in a hurry. The best thing about the book, though, is its philosophy--that a well-designed website is for the users, not an ego-trip for the designer. It's clear that they extended that approach in writing their book, to make it as useful as possible for the people who will be using it.
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on November 25, 2003
I use this book in the classroom to teach the web usability
component of a combo HCI/web design course. It has many
examples, contains review questions that are reasonable for
students to use, and is very clear and precise. The color
plates are the best I've seen in a book of this type. I
highly recommend this. Because it is so clear and concrete,
undergraduate students can quickly grasp the material. Further,
the authors responded quickly to a question I had. Everything
you need is here, from foundational concepts rooted in
cognitive psychology, to complex social/technology issues
like privacy and globalization. And of course, guidelines
for working with colors, and fonts. The book draws on Gestalt
psychology and Constructivism to discuss layout, placement
and visual hierarchy. If you teach HCI, consider this.
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on May 19, 2004
When I first bought this book, I expected to get more out of it in terms of designing web pages with users in mind. It focused a lot on setting up testing centers with a paper system and getting feedback from users. It was very brief on good web design techniques (doesn't cover navigation enough). The hands on exercises leaves something to be desired. Although there were some good ideas in this book, I found myself "hanging" at the end as if there should have been much more.
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